Captain Philipp Lahm will win his 100th cap for Germany against Austria on Friday on an occasion made extra special by the fact that the World Cup qualifier is taking place in his home city of Munich. The match presents an opportunity for Germany to move to within touching distance of a place in Brazil next year, but understandably the achievement of arguably the world’s best full-back has taken much of the attention.
“It really has come together incredibly well,” the Bayern Munich man said, according to his club’s official website. “It's a special match, and I'm privileged to be playing it in my own backyard, as it were, which is fantastic.”
Germany coach Joachim Low also paid tribute to the 29-year-old. “For almost ten years now, Philipp Lahm has epitomized consistency, reliability and the highest standards in the national team,” he explained. “He has natural authority, he accepts responsibility, he communicates well, and despite our flat hierarchy in the national team, he’s an undisputed leader.”
Germany top Group C by five points from the trio of Austria, Sweden and Ireland, with the latter two also facing off on Friday. Two wins will be enough for Low’s side to book a place at the World Cup as they try to better semifinal places in the last two major tournaments.
Clearly for Austria the match is of massive importance. Even a point against their neighbors will set them up nicely for vital matches against the Republic of Ireland next week and Sweden next month as they look to secure a place at the World Cup for the first time since 1998. One of the players who will be desperate to get a result in Germany will be Lahm’s Bayern Munich teammate, David Alaba. The 21-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence and believes the rest of his team also has the ability to trouble Germany.
“We have a handful of players who are capable of deciding a match due to their individual strengths,” he told Bayern’s website. “And we've come a long way mentally: we're much more confident -- even in training, no-one wants to lose.
“All this makes us stronger than we used to be. Germany are certainly favorites, but the reverse game in Vienna [which ended in a 2–1 victory for Germany] showed we’re capable of causing them problems if we play to our potential.”
Alaba is likely again to be selected in a more advanced midfield position for his country. It is a role that has paid dividends with Alaba scoring four goals in qualifying. Germany will be without a quartet of midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender.
D: Boateng, Mertesacker, Hummels, Lahm
M: Khedira, Kroos
Muller, Ozil, Reus
D: Garics, Prodl, Pogatetz, Fuchs
M: Harnik, Junuzovic, Baumgartlinger, Alaba
F: Arnautovic, Janko
Prediction: Austria recorded a crucial win against Sweden in their last qualifier but their defense has looked less than secure in recent months. Alaba will pose a threat going down the left against his Bayern teammate Jerome Boateng playing in his less favored full-back role, but that is unlikely to be enough. Even with several absentees, Germany’s midfield remains full of quality and they should have too much for their near rivals.
Germany 3-1 Austria
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. A live stream will be provided by ESPN3.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.